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NCWNZ calls for action to ensure Fracking safety

7 December 2012

Media Release

NCWNZ calls for action to ensure Fracking safety

“On the back of interim findings on hydraulic fracturing by Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner to the Environment, the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) is calling for Government action to ensure the safety of this practice,” NCWNZ President Barbara Arnold said today.

Barbara Arnold was referring to a remit passed unanimously at NCWNZ’s biennial conference in October, “that NCWNZ urges the Government to identify and minimise the risk associated with hydraulic fracturing by requiring a regulatory framework based on evidence pertaining to the practice; and to commit to ongoing, independent monitoring of the practice.”

Barbara Arnold said, “Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is already established in New Zealand and the oil and gas industry considers the practice in this country to be exemplary. However it is of concern that, as Dr Wright points out, oil and gas companies “appear to be not only regulating themselves, but monitoring their own performance.” This view is lent weight by a Taranaki Regional Council Report last year which conceded that “the hydraulic fracturing and geological information in this report has largely been supplied by oil and gas companies.”

“There are several potential risk factors associated with fracking. One of these is air quality. While tests of air quality down-wind of flaring activity have so far been reassuring, air contamination can occur from well leakage or from a ‘blow-out’ caused by cement failure. This commonly occurs in the US and Australia. Dr Wright points to cement quality as an essential component of safe well design and construction.

“An independent study by Australia’s National Toxins Network, shows that harm can also be caused by minute quantities of the toxins used in or released by fracking . Research by the Colorado School of Public Health has similarly identified toxic airborne chemicals, some carcinogenic, that are used in fracking,” said Barbara Arnold.

“While it has been suggested that regulators require the most environmentally friendly fluids to be used, companies do not currently disclose the ‘commercially sensitive’ mix of substances deployed. Furthermore, unlike the United Kingdom, New Zealand does not have a well examination scheme.

“Another risk factor is the release during fracking of naturally occurring substances that are potentially more harmful than the fracking fluids themselves.

“A further set of recommendations will be published as part of Dr Wright’s investigation and NCWNZ looks forward to these findings,” Barbara Arnold concluded.


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